Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Oil companies in the Arctic : A rig too far

Putting the Chukchi Sea on ice, again

From The Economist

Shell’s retreat from the frozen north shows the new realities of “big oil”

Oil companies have a proud history of digging holes in inaccessible places and producing gushers of money.
But in the Chukchi Sea, in the Alaskan Arctic, Shell has poured $7 billion into a single 6,800-foot exploratory well, making it possibly the most expensive hole yet drilled, only to admit this week that it had not found enough oil and gas to make further exploration worthwhile.

That was a big climbdown for a company that had spent seven years since acquiring the Chukchi licenses in 2008 in a highly public, drawn-out battle to drill in the Arctic.
The decision boiled down to costs, financial and reputational.
Most big oil firms face similar pressures.
Some will take a lesson from Shell and put their Arctic plans on hold, though Eni, a big Italian oil firm, is vowing to press ahead with its efforts to drill in the Norwegian Arctic.

As the oil price has fallen by more than half over the past year, the economics of drilling in deep and treacherous waters have worsened considerably.
Though Shell had sought to play down the dangers of its Chukchi conquest, observers long ago reckoned it had bitten off more than it could chew.
It suffered a slew of mishaps in 2012, culminating on December 31st of that year in a drilling rig breaking loose from its tow lines and running aground.

  New marine tracking data shows MSV Fennica, a Shell-contracted icebreaker may have crossed through shallow waters that offered little clearance between the vessel’s bottom and the ocean floor before a 3-foot hole was discovered in its hull.

After that episode, Ben van Beurden, installed as Shell’s chief executive in 2014, could have halted the ill-fated project.
But after a “personal journey”, he decided to go ahead.
Since then, Shell has portrayed Arctic drilling as somewhat of a mission, saying the prospective hydrocarbon reserves—ten times the total produced so far in the North Sea—are needed to provide energy for a global population expected to rise from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050.

Analysts say it was more about shoring up Shell’s reserve base, at a time when oil and gas deposits are increasingly held either by national oil companies or by nimble American “frackers”.
Last year Shell replaced only 26% of the 1.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe) that it produced.
It has told investors that the Arctic was the best long-term bet for filling that gap, expecting it to provide at least 500m boe after 15 years.
Now it will need new alternatives.
If its £47 billion ($70 billion) takeover of BG Group, a British firm, goes ahead, that is one: it will increase Shell’s oil and gas reserves by a quarter.

 Shell in Beaufort and Chukchi Seas

Reputation was another factor in Shell’s retreat.
A company that was among the first oil majors to acknowledge the risk of human-induced global warming in the 1990s—and one that has joined with other European oil firms to advocate carbon pricing ahead of the climate-change talks in Paris later this year—was embarrassed to be pilloried for its Arctic drilling by environmental groups and politicians.
Just as serious were the concerns of Shell’s own shareholders.
Many of these, including some big pension funds, questioned its climate-change credentials at its annual meeting in May.

The stockmarket is taking the news in its stride.
But internally, the abandonment of the Arctic project will lead to soul-searching.
Shell is staffed more by boffins than roughnecks, who pride themselves on their ability to overcome great challenges with technology.
It has been in this predicament before.
In the early 1990s it gave up an earlier attempt to explore in the Chukchi Sea after prices tumbled.
Its decision to do so again, and big cutbacks by rival oil firms, may help crude prices eventually to recover.
But if one day Arctic oil and gas look promising once more, don’t expect much enthusiasm from Shell.

Links :

Monday, October 5, 2015

Sailing just got simpler with Assisted Sail Trim (AST)

AST is a very special topic: Sails metrics and computer assisted sails Trim.
Jeanneau’s exclusive ASSISTED SAIL TRIM technology delivers peace of mind and ease of handling This Jeanneau innovation, co-developed in partnership with Harken, allows to trim the sails and remotely operate the winches directly from a screen at the helm station.
Designed to ensure comfortable and easy sailing, the ASSISTED SAIL TRIM system is ideal for short-handed cruising.
100% user-friendly and intuitive, it brings numerous features to cruising in the same way as the autopilot does. 

 From Jeanneau

Jeanneau and Harken are glad to announce the launch of their exclusive innovation making sailing easier.
Result of a close collaboration between Jeanneau, leading sailboat producer, and Harken, specialized manufacturer and distributor of innovative sailboat hardware and accessories, the AST “Assisted Sail Trim” reinvents cruising and shorthanded sailing.

This collaboration has produced an advanced system to make sailing easier for families, cruisers, shorthanded crews, solo sailors, and those with limited mobility.

The system, consisting of three OEM packages, offers sensor-guided, push-button sail control.
  1. The Auto Tacking base package adjusts the headsail for the new tack while you steer through the maneuver. Sensors detect wind speed and apparent wind for safety.
  2. Auto Trim is the perfect complement to Auto Tacking for easy cruising. Set the initial trim, press the button to engage Auto Trim, and then let the system handle sheeting. The system monitors apparent wind for perfect trim while you relax at the helm. An integrated heel control detects gusts and limits heel to your desired setting for maximum passenger comfort.
  3. The Sail Management package, which will debut in coming seasons, can hoist and douse the main or genoa. Load sensors detect jams and allow the halyard to be eased for safe operation.
All functions, as well as push-button control over each winch, are operated from a cockpit display.
Harken Rewind™ winches or Captive Reel winches allow the system to both trim and ease without manual intervention.
All packages feature full redundancy and manual backup in the event of power loss.

Jeanneau will debut the Auto Tacking and Auto Trim packages on its Sun Odyssey range under the name Assisted Sail Trim (AST).
The AST will be exclusive to Jeanneau Sun Odyssey during the 2015 season.

“It’s been a challenge to keep this project secret through years of development and on-the-water testing, but this finely-tuned system was definitely worth the wait,” says Davide Burrini, Harken International OEM Sales Manager.
“By centralizing controls, integrating wind and equipment sensors, and allowing skippers to control all sheeting from the helm, this project has the potential to revolutionize cruising and shorthanded sailing.”

Erik Stromberg, Sailboat Product Director Jeanneau said, “This project has been a very unique collaboration.It has at times been difficult to tell where our Harken partners ended and we at Jeanneau began.The result is quite an elegant system, with room to grow its capabilities built right in. Our AST will give Jeanneau owners more of the relaxation they love about sailing, with less of the sail handling and adjustments that can sometimes intrude.”

Discover the AST brochure: www.jeanneau.fr/brochure/assisted-sail-trim

Links :
  • Dronautic : Assisted Sail Trim : Harken & Jeanneau "dronautise" sailboats

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Blue Room : Teahupoo from the sky and underwater

All this footage was shot in one morning at Teahupoo
while Ben Thouard was shooting stills underwater.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Oman Sail : Mod70 vs GC32

Mod70 ⚔ GC32 ● Oman Sail ● Marseille (France) ✔
Latitude & Longitude: 43º 19’ 94" N ● 5º 19' 79" E | Channel: VHF 16 

Links :
  • Vimeo :  MOD 70 Phaedo3 doing 35 knots during a World Record-breaking sail from Cowes to Dinard

Friday, October 2, 2015

Image of the week : Great Exuma Island, Bahamas from space

Amazing shot of Great Exuma Island, Bahamas from Space.
Image was taken by an astronaut of the Expedition 44 crew
(acquired July 15, 2015)


An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of small island cays in the Bahamas and the prominent tidal channels cutting between them.
For astronauts, this is one of the most recognizable points on the planet.

 zoom on Green Turtle Cut (WLP nautical charts) in the GeoGarage platform

The string of cays—stretching 14.24 kilometers (8.9 miles) in this image—extends west from Great Exuma Island (just outside the image to the right).
Exuma is known for being remote from the bigger islands of The Bahamas, and it is rich with privately owned cays and with real pirate history (including Captain Kidd).

 Great Exuma Islands in the GeoGarage platform

Small tidal changes on the banks cause great quantities of water to flow daily through the narrow channels between the cays, first in one direction and then the other.
The darker blue sections are the deepest parts of the channels, where the water flow has cut through the rock ridge that makes the line of cays.
The surrounding water is shallow (less than 25 meters, or 80 feet) and appears light blue.
Thanks to the astronaut’s steady hands in controlling a long lens in weightlessness, this photograph is detailed enough to show a single aircraft and its twin condensation trails.

Links :

Thursday, October 1, 2015

We can solve the ocean plastic problem

A seal trapped in plastic debris
Photo Ewan Edwards/The Clipperton project

From HuffingtonPost by Andreas Merkl (Ocean Conservancy)

Today, Ocean Conservancy released a major report: Stemming the Tide-Land-based strategies for a plastic-free ocean.
We think it's a big deal.
It squarely addresses one of our biggest worries: the avalanche of plastic that cascades into the ocean every year.

It's getting really bad.
Practically every kind of animal, from plankton to whales, is now contaminated by plastic.
It's in the birds, in the turtles, in the fish.
At the current rate, we could have 1 ton of plastics for every 3 tons of fish by 2015.

This is nobody's plan.
It's not the plan of the plastics industry, it's not the plan of the consumer goods industry and it's certainly not the plan for those of us who love and need the ocean.
Nobody wants this.

The problem is born on land.
Most of the plastic originates in rapidly industrializing countries whose waste management infrastructure is lagging behind.
This is a typical phase of development that all countries go through.
The problem is simply that the enormous utility of plastic, combined with the explosive economic growth of Asia and Africa, combine to yield an enormous flow of unmanaged plastic waste into the ocean.

The majority of plastic waste ending up in dumps and in waterways is composed of thin films used in grocery bags and food packaging.
This type of material is very low value after it is discarded and there is little economic incentive to pick it up.
Blown or washed into the ocean, it breaks apart, and becomes the "microplastic" that is so easily mistaken by animals for tasty zooplankton.
These microplastics are ubiquitous, found everywhere from the equator to the poles, and it is a real and rapidly growing problem.
By comparison, the famous ocean gyres, or "garbage patches", which are considered to be the most concentrated areas of plastic in the ocean, contain only a small percentage (< 3 percent) of all plastics entering the ocean.

So what to do?
We are fortunate, in a sense, that the plastic flow into the ocean is quite concentrated.
Only five Asian countries account for the majority of the flow.
Within these countries, there are a limited number of cities, rivers and watershed that really matter.
We know where we need to go.

A "fish market" in Hong Kong. Most plastic pollution in the ocean originates from five Asian nations.
In developing regions, the most troublesome plastic waste tends to be in the form of low-value bags and thin films.
photo : Fedor Selivanov

In these places, we need to first concentrate on the basics: the safe collection, transportation and storage of plastic waste.
By optimizing the waste hauling system, increasing collection rates to 80 percent and advancing waste treatment and conversion technologies in these five countries alone, we could cut the flow of plastic into the ocean by 45% by 2025.

Stemming the Tide lays out in detail how the various elements of the solution have to come together, what they cost and who needs to be involved.
This is clearly a solvable problem, but it will require the cooperation of many groups: industry, cities, national governments, multi-lateral organizations, banks, NGOs.
Together, we need to create the conditions that make it possible for investors and entrepreneurs to invest in integrated waste management solutions.

This is a classic example of a global problem with local solutions.
The good news is that the global community is becoming very concerned about the ocean plastic problem.
We can concentrate global expertise and resources on local problems, greatly accelerating the rate at which the fundamental waste management infrastructure is built.

Ocean Conservancy created the Trash Free Seas Alliance® (Alliance) specifically to focus these global resources on the right local problems.
It consists of NGOs, corporations and scientists that have come together to create pragmatic, real-world solutions focused on the measurable reduction of ocean plastics.
Stemming the Tide is a signature initiative of the Alliance with support from the American Chemistry Council, The Coca-Cola Company, the Dow Chemical Company, REDISA and WWF, and was advised by a broad set of experts from the industrial, finance and waste management realms.

For the Alliance, this report is only the end of the beginning: it is the start of a global effort to turbo-charge the development of ocean-smart waste management infrastructure in the places that really matter.

Links :
  • The Guardian : By 2025, our seas may be filled with one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish
  • Wired : Adding more plastic to our oceans could clean them up

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

NGA to update Bowditch, seeks public input

The American Pratical Navigator
from Nathaniel Bowditch, the founder of modern maritime navigation.

From NGA by Carling Uhler 

Nathaniel Bowditch’s “The American Practical Navigator,” often simply called “Bowditch” and regarded by mariners as the premier navigational reference, is due for an update, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency wants input from mariners the world over.

The first edition of “The American Practical Navigator” was a revision of “The New Practical Navigator,” the most popular navigational text of the 1700s.
Bowditch, a famous mariner and mathematician, worked with other experts of that era to revise and update the original publication and published it in 1802.

The U.S. Naval Observatory copy of the first edition "Bowditch" has the imprint "Printed at Newburyport, (Mass.) 1802, by Edmund M. Blunt, (Proprietor) For Brown & Stansbury, New York."
The manuscript signature of the original owner appears to be James "Horvey"or "Horry".
On the leaf facing the back cover, it has in manuscript "Bought by James Ho--- New York July 12th AD, 1804".
On the verso of this leaf in manuscript is "Sailed from New York for Spain June 1805."
A more recent bookplate in the front of the book states "Navigation Library of George W. Mixter". George Webber Mixter (1876-1947) wrote several books on navigation including "Primer of Navigation" which was published in several editions.
There is no record of when this book first came to the Naval Observatory Library.
The Library owns most of the later editions of Bowditch up to the present time.
Bowditch (1773-1838) was still alive when the U. S. Navy's Depot of Charts and Instruments, forerunner of the U. S. Naval Observatory, was founded in 1830.

NGA and its predecessor organizations have been responsible for reviewing the publication and ensuring it meets the demands of the modern mariner since the 19th century.
The U.S. government purchased the rights to the book in 1867 for $25,000.
The U.S. Navy Hydrographic Office, an NGA predecessor, assumed responsibility for updating the publication in 1868, and it has been regularly updated ever since.
Now in its ninth edition, the publication is freely available for download from NGA.

Chart of the Atlantic Ocean (Bowditch)

To keep pace with the rapidly changing world of navigation, each edition has included revisions to dated material, addition or deletion of new and antiquated methods, corrections to current publications, and further updates to maritime fundamentals, piloting, electronic navigation, electronic and celestial navigation, navigational mathematics, and navigational safety measures.
Some past updates have included deleting obsolete LORAN information and adding bottom contour navigation and digital nautical charting techniques.

Chart of the harbours of Salem, Marblehead, Beverly, and Manchester :
from a survey taken in the years 1804 (Author: Bowditch, Nathaniel )

Collecting and publishing the most updated techniques, information, methods and data ensures “The American Practical Navigator” remains the reference resource for modern, practical marine navigation.
"For the past two centuries, Bowditch has provided each new generation of sailors the theory and science behind the art of modern marine navigation,” said Gerard Clifford, NGA Maritime Safety Office.

The deadline for users to insure their comments and feedback are considered for the new edition is June 30, 2016.
The next edition of Bowditch is expected to be published and released by NGA in 2017.

To submit contributions and feedback for the next edition of Bowditch, please visit the NGA Bowditch survey website, download the survey files, and send an email to Bowditch2017@nga.mil.
Contributions may also be emailed directly to Bowditch2017@nga.mil.